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Appalachian research team receives $90,000 EPA award

BOONE—Appalachian State University is one of 15 universities sharing more than $1 million in awards presented as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Student Design Competition for Sustainability.

View larger imageStudents and faculty from Appalachian State University, pictured here, will receive $90,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency to further develop an artificial wetland that could be used by businesses to recycle graywater for other uses. (Photo courtesy of the EPA)

Appalachian’s team, led by senior appropriate technology major Bobbie Jo Swinson, Assistant Professor Jim Houser and Jack Martin from the Department of Technology and Environmental Design, and Professor Michael Hambourger from the Department of Chemistry, will receive $90,000 to continue a research project to develop an artificial wetland suitable for recycling of graywater from small businesses for immediate reuse.

The award will be used to further develop their design, apply it to real world applications or move it to the marketplace, according to a news release from the EPA. Previous P3 award winners have started successful businesses and are marketing their technologies in the U.S. and around the world.

The Appalachian team will receive an additional $1,000 from the Chemical Engineers Society and has been invited to give a presentation at their annual conference.

Appalachian’s EPA P3 entry, “An On-Site Biological Graywater Treatment System Suitable for a Small Business” received initial Phase I funding in fall 2011 to test the efficacy of using plants, such as water lettuce and other water plants, in a miniature wetland to “clean” graywater from a hair salon’s waste water and use it for irrigation, to flush toilets or other use. The “point of use” wetland could not only reclaim water that normally would enter a town or city’s sewer system, but also serve as living art.

This year’s winners of EPA P3 Phase 2 funding were selected following an initial peer review process of 45 teams that competed for the funding. Their projects were judged by a panel of national experts convened to provide recommendations to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The projects also were on display on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during the National Sustainable Design Expo. This year’s expo was co-sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Engineers without Borders-USA, Engineering for Change and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

“The competition and expo are not only about EPA’s prestigious P3 award, but also about supporting the next generation of this country’s innovators and entrepreneurs who are entering the environmental and public health field with passion to make a difference and many brilliant ideas,” said Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The P3 program gives these students the opportunity to bring those ideas to realization and many have the potential to make significant impacts on our nation’s sustainable future and development of environmental technologies.”

Read more about Swinson’s project at http://www.news.appstate.edu/2011/12/06/epa-p3-grant. For more information on the P3 award competition, visit http://www.epa.gov/p3/2012winners.

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